As the MLA for South Belfast, I am very concerned at the news that one of the major institutions in my constituency, Queen’s University, is looking to raise tuition fees for undergraduate students to up to £6,300.
I am opposed to this. Higher education should be available to all who want it, regardless of their financial circumstances. Raising fees will simply mean that a university education is unaffordable to many people.
Whilst I appreciate there is a funding gap for our universities that needs to be resolved, there are much better ways of closing this than by placing an increased financial burden on our young people. The Green Party was clear in our Assembly manifesto earlier this year that we are opposed to any tuition fee rise.
Having spoken to the NUS-USI, I know that they have several alternative funding streams to propose, which would keep tuition fees at their current level, or potentially even allow them to be reduced or removed. These options include asking businesses who benefit by employing our highly-skilled graduates to contribute more to the costs of training them, and should be considered by both Queen’s University and the Executive as alternatives to tuition fee rises.
At a time when the costs of religiously segregated education in Northern Ireland are estimated to be up to £80m per year, to punish students because of a funding gap of £55m is shameful.
I, and the Green Party more widely, will continue to fight any proposals that would do this.
Clare Bailey, Green Party MLA, South Belfast